Time to Abandon the Self-Medication Hypothesis in Patients with Psychiatric Disorders AMERICAN JOURNAL OF DRUG AND ALCOHOL ABUSE Lembke, A. 2012; 38 (6): 524-529


The Self-Medication Hypothesis (SMH) of addictive disorders as articulated by Edward Khantzian in his seminal 1985 paper postulates that individuals with psychiatric disorders use substances to relieve psychiatric symptoms and that this pattern of usage predisposes them to addiction. Khantzian's SMH also postulates that the preferred substance is not random, but is based on the unique pharmacological properties of the substance. For example, an individual with attention deficit disorder would prefer amphetamines to alcohol, due to its stimulating properties, whereas an individual with anxiety would prefer alcohol to amphetamines, due to its anxiolytic properties. Finally, Khantzian's SMH implies that treating the underlying psychiatric disorder will improve or resolve the problems of addiction. AIMS AND RESULTS: A review of the scientific literature demonstrates a striking lack of robust evidence in support of the SMH as put forth by Khantzian.Nonetheless, the SMH has had a profound influence on medical and lay culture, as well as clinical care. Although originally formulated as a compassionate explanation for addiction in those with psychiatric disorders, the SMH does not provide, as originally intended, a "useful rationale" for guiding treatment and instead has led to under-recognition and under-treatment of substance use disorders.

View details for DOI 10.3109/00952990.2012.694532

View details for Web of Science ID 000309667200002

View details for PubMedID 22924576